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Murphy and Irons Spar over JCLS (posted January 5, 2003)

Incoming House Speaker William Murphy and Senate President Williams Irons sparred over a proposed reorganization of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, the group in charge of handling administrative services in the General Assembly. Appearing together on the WPRI-TV show "Newsmakers", Irons pressed his case for what he called a new paradigm. It makes "no sense" for the House to monitor the affairs of the Senate, Irons said. "The chambers are balanced in everything except their management." Right now, the House holds a majority of votes on the JCLS and has used that voting power to control legislative administration and contracting.

When asked his view about Irons' proposal to have equal membership from the House and Senate on the committee, Murphy said he didn't agree with the proposal to add the Senate Majority Leader. The House has 75 members, while the Senate has only 38, he noted, and this justifies the House having greater representation on the joint committee.

On the controversial subject of "separation of powers", Murphy said that "if you ask five people, you get five separate opinions" on what the notion means. He asked whether the separation of powers referendum approved by voters meant "separate and equal or separate and distinctive". Referring to the separation of powers issue, Murphy said "I was not elevated to give up the House of Representatives and I won't."

Irons meanwhile promised "clear, concise, and meaningful" language on a separation of powers constitutional amendment that will appear on the ballot in 2004. He expressed his desire that the language be clear and definitive enough that "the courts are not deciding our destiny" through legal interpretations.

With the Rhode Island Supreme Court facing two vacancies, the legislative leaders were asked about their timetable for new justices. Murphy said the General Assembly does not "have to move as quickly as people think" due to the presence of two retired justices (Weisberger and Shea) who can serve in the interim. "We don't have to move hastily," he indicated. Irons agreed with this sentiment and said the Assembly should name new justices in a proper fashion. He suggested that the best approach for outcoming Governor Lincoln Almond would be to withdraw the nomination of Family Court Judge Paul Suttell. "Governor Almond did a disservice to the process," Irons said. The governor should not have asked a lameduck session of a downsized Assembly to approve a judicial nomination.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services